Beyond heterodoxy: Dwight Waldo and the politics-administration dichotomy

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Dwight Waldo (1913-2000) is commonly known as a ‘heterodox’ critic of the dichotomy between politics and administration. But is this reputation supported by his writings? It is primarily based on his early publications, particularly The Administrative State (1948) and The Study of Public Administration (1955), in which he conceptualized politics/administration narrowly as deciding/executing and, indeed, sharply criticized it. Waldo’s later publications, however, offer much broader conceptualizations and a more ambivalent, often even positive appraisal of the politics-administration dichotomy. These are also found in an important unpublished book, on which Waldo worked during several phases of his career. On the basis of these published and unpublished writings, it is necessary to reconsider Waldo’s reputation, and, pursuing his line of thinking, to reconceptualize the politics-administration dichotomy as a layered construct and to reappreciate it as a constitutional doctrine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-45
JournalPublic Administration Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • politics-administration dichotomy
  • Dwight Waldo
  • public administration theory

VU Research Profile

  • Governance for Society


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